Christmas can be an extremely difficult time for parents that have separated. Not only are the parents dealing with their own emotions after the break-up, they also need to make decisions about where the children will be during the Christmas break. If children are involved in the decision, then they may choose to be with the parent that they believe will be hurt the least rather than what they really want to do.Although tensions may be high, children need to know that they will be safe and comfortable wherever they are and that both parents are okay with that. It is never too soon to discuss the arrangements so that everyone knows what is happening. If it is not possible for parents to spend any time together with the children at Christmas, children ought to feel able to telephone the absent parent and also to contact both sides of the extended family if that is their wish. Grandparents, aunts, nephews and cousins on both sides are important sources of support for children both now and in the future.
It may be possible for the children to spend a part of Christmas day with one parent for lunch and to spend Christmas dinner with the other parent. This will, of course, depend upon the proximity of the parents to each other. There are other options, for example, the children spend one day with one parent and the next day with the other parent, in effect having two Christmases. The possibilities are endless once you think about it and it may take some imagination to make it work. Rather than hanging on to the traditions of the past, it may be time to introduce some new traditions that the children can enjoy with each parent. If parents co-operate well together, engaging with each other to talk about Christmas presents so that there is no duplication, Christmas may turn out to be a real joy for the children with each parent. Extended family could also be involved as well if that is what the children want. What is important is that the children enjoy Christmas and do not feel guilty for not being with one parent at any particular time. This will take great efforts from the parents to ensure that the children know that neither parent is left alone at all during Christmas.
Many of us have wonderful memories of Christmas and if parents are able to create such memories for their own children, albeit in separate places, then their children will grow up secure in the knowledge that their parents were able to put their differences aside for their sake.